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    African Ministers Focus On IP Role In Innovation For Development; Less On Flexibilities

    Published on 18 March 2013 @ 1:14 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Africa IP ForumDar es Salaam, Tanzania – The role of innovation as a driving force of social, economic, and environmental development is one of the central themes in post-2015 global development agenda discussions. In a ministerial-level meeting with guidance from the World Intellectual Property Organization last week, African policymakers outlined what they would need to foster innovation at home. Among a list of recommendations, ministers widely agreed on the importance of developing national intellectual property frameworks, capacity building, and raising awareness through education. Encouraging the use of IP flexibilities, however, was largely left out of the conversation.

    The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a body responsible for 70 percent of spending across the UN system, held the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Africa on 14 March in Dar es Salaam. Recommendations from this meeting, along with other regional preparatory meetings, will be taken into account at ECOSOC’s Annual Ministerial Review, which will be held from 1-4 July in Geneva.

    This was the first time that an ECOSOC Regional Preparatory Meeting was co-organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The Japan Patent Office was also a meeting organiser, with support from the government of Tanzania, and in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

    In line with ECOSOC’s theme this year on “Science, Technology, and Innovation for Sustainable Development,” the African regional meeting focused on how innovation can enable achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.

    From left to right: Wu Hongbo, Néstor Osorio, Francis Gurry (Photo Credit: Zainul Mzige)

    From left to right: Wu Hongbo, Néstor Osorio, Francis Gurry (Photo Credit: Zainul Mzige)

    In his opening remarks, Colombian Ambassador Néstor Osorio, president of ECOSOC, said, “Innovation is the essence of modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies.”

    He emphasised the role of countries in driving their own development during a press conference. Referencing the global economic crisis, he said that given the “difficulties developed countries are facing,” their ability to “finance development” could be reduced.

    Raising IP Awareness, Building Capacity

    Developing regional and national intellectual property policies was a key part of the ECOSOC discussions, overlapping the theme of a WIPO conference held over the previous two days (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 12 March 2013). Many of the technology, industry, science, and justice ministers in attendance participated in both events.

    At the ECOSOC meeting, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said, “There are many policies that go together to make an effective innovation ecosystem, but it’s quite clear that an indispensable element of an effective innovation ecosystem is intellectual property.”

    Several examples of national and regional frameworks were discussed during the one-day event, with some of Kenya’s recent policies and initiatives supporting science, technology and innovation highlighted as an example. During one of her interventions, Margaret Kamar, minister for higher education, science and technology in Kenya, pointed to the nascent establishment of the Kenyan National Innovation Agency.

    One of the agency’s key roles, she said, is to “scout and nurture innovative ideas and increase awareness of intellectual property rights among innovators. Really knowledge is still lacking on the IP systems.”

    For Kamar, enhancing IP public awareness through education should be a priority, a message that was included in the meeting’s key messages to be conveyed during the ECOSOC meeting in July. A complete list of agreed priorities are included in the meeting press release.

    “I really believe that intellectual property should be part of schooling, even primary school, let it be a way of life. To know that your knowledge is not just for free, you can also add something, and if you discover something, it’s for you. If we allow this to be learned when students are very young, it will be easier for them to hold onto it, and be able to exploit it,” Kamar told Intellectual Property Watch.

    Similarly, Jacqueline Mneney Maleko, director general of Tanzanian’s Trade Development Authority, told Intellectual Property Watch that although a national IP policy is in its advanced stages of development, public awareness if very low. “The challenge we have is to know how to exploit intellectual property for economic growth and for growth of our businesses,” she said.

    “In our country, entrepreneur culture is still very low, the culture is just creeping in. We have a lot of entrepreneurs, but most of the entrepreneurs are not there by virtue of really wanting to be entrepreneurs, it is mostly for lack of formal employment. Above all, most of our entrepreneurs are from the informal sector,” Maleko said.

    In the context of implementing intellectual property policies as part of the promotion of an innovation ecosystem, several meeting participants mentioned capacity building as a key challenge.

    Likiby Boubakar, permanent secretary of the National Committee for Technology Development (CNDT) in Cameroon, which manages national technology transfers, told Intellectual Property Watch, “We are financed through public funds, so often the question of intellectual property does not come up. We would have to train key personnel so they could help implement a strategy in our department, and at a national level.”

    Including IP in National Frameworks

    African ministers also agreed on the importance of increasing efforts “to develop their legal and policy frameworks, including their intellectual property legislation and policy, so as to release the region’s untapped potential.”

    A new working paper commissioned by WIPO, entitled, “Innovation and IP in Africa: The Role of IP in Supporting the Objectives of Fostering Science Technology and Innovation for Africa’s development,” takes stock of the innovation landscape across the continent, points to some of the innovation gaps, and makes recommendations on improving the situation.

    Authors Getachew Mengistie, IP consultant and attorney from Ethiopia, and Barthélemy Nyasse, professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, presented their findings for the first time during the WIPO conference on 13 March. A paper backgrounder was made available, but the full publication has not yet been released.

    Through a review of the literature and available statistics, the authors underlined the dearth of intellectual property coming out of Africa. According to INSEAD and WIPO’s Global Innovation Index 2012, with the exception of Mauritius and South Africa, African innovation index rankings are very low, with an average score of some 26 out of 100 points. In terms of IP title filings in 2010, Africa ranked last across all categories.

    “Looking at these results, we asked why Africa is performing so poorly in the production of science and technology. Is it because IP is bad for Africa?” Nyasse told Intellectual Property Watch.

    “Other countries, such as Japan, have used IP to develop, by using existing technology but developing strong trademarks, such as Toyota and Sony. India has developed using IP by using patent data and reverse engineering to become leaders in the production of generic medicines. If IP has allowed other countries to progress, why hasn’t it allowed, or why is Africa not exploiting certain aspects of IP?” Nyasse said.

    According to the paper, one of the major obstacles is the lack of regulations, policies, and institutions to encourage and support researchers and entrepreneurs in pursuing intellectual property protection of their work. It recommends creating policies and structures where they don’t currently exist.

    IP Flexibilities Largely Absent

    The use of IP flexibilities in Africa today and going forward was not an area of focus during the ministerial meeting.

    Under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), developing countries negotiated flexibilities to enforcing IP rights when it was not in their national interest, such as in the case of needed medicines. Developed countries have worked for years to discourage use of these flexibilities.

    Although the use of TRIPS flexibilities is a key development issue in Africa, this issue was not an agenda topic, nor was it discussed in the publication summary on innovation and IP in Africa prepared for the meeting. However, Nyasse stressed that the paper in no way suggests the strengthening of IP laws or enforcement.

    To the contrary, he said, “It is essential that our countries, in the context of the implementation of intellectual property policies, take into account IP flexibilities, which again is an example of an opportunity that African states have not yet exploited.”

    Related articles:

    http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/12/series-of-meetings-on-ip-and-innovation-in-africa-open-in-tanzania/

     

    http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/01/speakers-outline-ideas-for-africa-to-find-appropriate-ip-policies/

     

    Rachel Marusak Hermann may be reached at info@ip-watch.org.

     

    Comments

    1. Diverging Views On IPR Protection Needs In Africa Emerge At IP Workshop | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/18/african-ministers-focus-on-ip-role-in-innovation-for-development-… [...]

    2. Google at odds with African ministers and musicians over internet regulation : AN Partnership. All Rights Reserved. says:

      [...] sharp contrast to Schmidt’s announcement, African policymakers attending a ministerial-level meeting in Tanzania agreed on the importance of d… in order to foster [...]

    3. Google at odds with African ministers and musicians over internet regulation – Media Guardian (blog) at googlechili.searchengine.hoops227.org says:

      [...] sharp contrast to Schmidt’s announcement, African policymakers attending a ministerial-level meeting in Tanzania agreed on the importance of d… in order to foster [...]

    4. The Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) | Reaching Across Borders to Support Communications Scholarship says:

      [...] African policymakers discuss intellectual property rights [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

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    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

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    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

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    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

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